Pep Guardiola paid a glowing tribute to Marcelo Bielsa after Leeds United secured promotion to the Premier League as Championship winners – hailing the Argentine tactician as “unique” in world football.
Former Chile, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille boss Bielsa has secured hero status in the west Yorkshire city after ending Leeds’ 16-year exile from English football’s top flight, a season on from suffering play-off heartache against Derby County.
Guardiola has long been a huge admirer of Bielsa’s work and sought his counsel before taking the plunge into top-level coaching.
The Manchester City manager is delighted his old friend will join him in the Premier League for the 2020-21 campaign.
“He has done an exceptional job,” he told a news conference ahead of City’s trip to Watford
“They were exceptional last season and then didn’t get promoted. They showed a lot of character to get promoted a year later.
“We know how difficult it is to win the Championship and get to the Premier League, so congratulations.”
Although Bielsa’s CV is light in terms of major honours – the last of three Primera Division titles won in his homeland came with Velez Sarsfield in 1998 – Guardiola believes the 64-year-old’s enduring influence upon a generation of players and coaches counts for much more.
“I was not his player, so it is difficult to talk about him. But I know the reference from a hundred million players who were with him,” he said.
“I was lucky enough to have the chance to talk to him. He is unique in world football because of the special way he plays. He is an authentic manager. No other manager in the world plays the way he plays.
“He is an incredible person. He is so special. It is my personal opinion but it will be incredible for English football to have him in the Premier League next season.”
“It really makes me happy the fact that I was part of this process with this group of players” https://t.co/ml49hJp2jR
— Leeds United (@LUFC) July 19, 2020
Guardiola’s spells with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City means he has ample experience when it comes to winning titles.
However, he feels even these considerable heights are dwarfed by what Bielsa has created during his career.
“Winning titles helps to have a job next season but at the end of your life, what you remember is not the titles you have won, what you remember is the memories you have and whether the manager taught you a lot,” he said.
“I had a bad night after the Arsenal game but the day after, it is forgotten. If you win a title it is the same. You have the night but the day after, it is forgotten.
“What we remember are the experiences and the memories, the players you have had, the managers you have had. Marcelo is at the top of the list. Absolutely at the top of the list.”
One manager unable to keep hold of his job was Nigel Pearson, who will not lead Watford against City after being relieved of his duties on Sunday.
“Before the lockdown, what Nigel had done was incredible,” Guardiola added. “The amount of points and the results they got when they were at the bottom. After that, I don’t know what happened.
“I respect the decisions of the club, of course. I wish Nigel all the best, he’s an experienced manager in England and has done incredibly well in the past and this period at Watford.”
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